Friday, July 22, 2005

Brasilia

I spent an enjoyable week in Brasilia while Janet attended the Society for Conservation Biology meetings. It was a special pleasure to run into Eduardo Eizirik, a former student who appears to be doing extremely well in Porto Alegre. Brasilia itself was interesting. There is a political crisis underway, and I was struck by the observation that Brazil still has real news on television. Brasilia has a large middle class. We shopped at a huge store called the Extra Hipermercado which rivals anything that Wal-Mart has come up with (I note that Vitoria, where I am now, has a genuine Wal-Mart Superstore). Brasilia is a city, like Houston or Miami, made for the automobile, but the main roads have no overpasses and few lights, so it is easy to get stuck going in the opposite direction and most turns get made at the numerous rotaries or "retornos." With the exception of one major detour due to a traffic accident I enjoyed tooling around in our rented red Fiat and ended up putting almost 500 kilometers on the car without leaving the city.

I loved the weather in Brasilia, which is much like California this time of year (warm and dry during the day but cool at night), especially in comparison to the weather in Recife last year, where it rained most of every day the week that I was there. I was also fascinated by the southern tropical skies. The sun moved from right to left across the sky during the day and was well to our north at noon. Although it was actually less directly overhead at noon than the sun is now in Maryland, it shot up quickly in the morning and met the horizon directly in the evening. The full moon, in contrast, passed almost directly overhead, just a little to our south. Our friend and host David Oren took me out one night and pointed out the Southern Cross, which I had never seen before.

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